Practice Forgiveness (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

Marriage is about two imperfect people becoming well practiced at forgiveness

I heard a quote of this kind a while ago, but unfortunately don’t know the original author. My version above is a paraphrase, and I am certain you get the idea!

When married, a couple will inevitably let each other down. It is rarely deliberate, and few want to cause distress or harm. Sometimes needs or wants on one side are misunderstood by the other, and not met, and other times those needs are clearly communicated and yet go unfulfilled. Mistakes are made in tiredness, anger or grief, and sometimes words are spoken which are not intended. I am perhaps no great student of people, yet I have never seen a marriage where this isn’t so. Marriages are hard work and yet absolutely worth the effort.

What is true of marriage is probably also true of all relationships, to a greater or lesser degree.

No matter our differences, there is one thing that is true of us all – not one of us is perfect. Each of us is born a sinner, live in a broken world and often think of ourselves more than we ought. It is rather a miracle that any marriage or relationship works out at all!

People stay together when they forgive one another time and time again. When we stop forgiving, resentment can build and ultimately destroy the relationship.

There are, of course, times when a relationship comes to an end. This is sad, and we can reduce the chance of it happening by willingly and freely forgiving each other for our shortfalls. (Of course, if there are serious issues such as abuse, then forgiveness is no magic wand to wave and repair all the hurt overnight. In such case, more help is required)

How good are you at forgiving your spouse, friend or family member? How often have they had to forgive you in the past? Practise makes perfect, so they say, and as long as you have people in your life, you will have plenty of opportunity to forgive.

Forgiving is not easy, no matter how often we do it. It does not undo hurt or pain, and it does not make bad things good. It is a choice. If, like me, you find it hard to forgive at times, then ask the Lord to help you and remember how wide and deep His forgiveness is for you.

Of All the Mornings Revisited

Beautiful words penned by Bruce Cooper shared for you below on this Easter day. He is risen! Praise the Lord!

Of all the mornings that have ever occured, this Easter morning, when Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, rose from the dead, is the morning above all …

Of All the Mornings Revisited

Just as He said He would

Happy Easter!

It was my privilege to share for a few minutes this morning at our early morning sunrise service on this Resurrection Sunday.

I share below a recording of the message which I hope you enjoy.

May you be eternally blessed this Easter weekend!

A message from Andy on Easter Sunday morningA message from Andy on Easter Sunday morning

Psalm 32 – Sermon

A few years ago I gave a sermon on Psalm 32, and was reviewing my notes from it this morning.

It is one of the penitential Psalms, or Psalms of repentance. It is a wonderful set of verses, and I share below the audio message I gave at the time.

Do have a read of the whole Psalm before listening, as it is not included in the recording.

This Sunday at Church: Talk to your kids what the Lord’s Supper Mean

For this Sunday here’s what you can do: Talk to your kids what the Lord’s Supper Mean. For our upcoming Lord’s Day today we will be doing Communion. …

This Sunday at Church: Talk to your kids what the Lord’s Supper Mean

I’m Sorry

I was thinking about apologising this week, not that there was a particular incident which I needed to say sorry for, but instead I was reflecting on how bad we are at it – generally speaking! Is that through lack of practise I wonder?

We all make mistakes, and yet we often fail to apologise properly, or even at all. This can only harm our relationships, and in my experience, I only ever think more highly of someone who admits their faults, not less.

I may struggle to point to specific Bible verses here, so please treat this as helpful advice rather than anything else! Experience gained the hard way is the only authority I can claim!

Be specific

When you apologise, be specific.

Sometimes when we discipline our children, they say “sorry” but really they mean “Be quiet Dad!” When I probe a little, asking what they are aplogising for, they cannot always tell me.

When you tell someone you are sorry, be clear about what it is you are sorry for. It not only acknowledges the mistake you made, but shows you understand why they were upset or hurt.

For instance, you could say:

  • I’m sorry I snapped at you this morning, it wasn’t your fault and I should not have said what I did.
  • I’m sorry I did not do what I said I would do yesterday, that must have been frustrating and created extra work for you.

While you do not necessarily need to mention when it happened, I think that can help to be clear about what went on.

Keep It Simple and Short

In my experience, it is better to be brief and to keep things simple. When we go on and on, trying to explain or setting the scene, it can come across as making excuses. We will touch on that in a moment, but for now, keep things straightforward.

I am not suggesting that you say something like, “I’m sorry I had an affair, that was inconsiderate of me.” As clearly, such a wrong requires a little more effort on our part!

I’m sorry, but… no excuses

When we apologise, we should offer no excuse along with it. You can hear the tell tale signs when someone says, “I’m sorry, but…” that little word “but” adds the idea that although I was wrong, there were extenuating circumstances which mean it wasn’t totally my fault.

Worse is when we say, “I’m sorry, but you…” turning around a situation like that is never any way to say we are sorry.

The truth is, when we are wrong, we have no excuse for our behaviour. There may be reasons why it happened, such as tiredness, worry, fear or stress, but an excuse does not make a wrong thing right.

I once heard it said that an excuse is a reason stuffed with a lie, and there is much truth to that.

When we are wrong, we should just say so, offering no excuses for the behaviour. It is merely an attempt to lessen the offence. Far better to just hold up one’s hands and and say, “I was wrong, I’m sorry.”

No Defence

In a similar way, when we are wrong, we have no defence any more than we have an excuse.

In a court of law, the accused mounts a defence to prove their innocence. In situations where the defendant admits their guilt, no defence is required.

When we say we are sorry, we are admitting that we have done something wrong. If we defend ourselves in that scenario, do we really believe we are “guilty” therefore? If some part of us believes we are innocent, then our apology lacks integrity.

Don’t apologise like a politician!

I write this at a time when the Prime Minister in the UK has been accused of breaking COVID restrictions which he imposed upon the rest of the nation. His “apologies” to date have not been all that well received by other politicians or the wider public. He has offered excuses; “I didn’t know it broke the rules…” and he has defended himself, saying “It was a work event, and I was only there 10 minutes…”

Often politicians will apologise by saying things like, “I’m sorry that hurt was caused…” thus avoiding any personal responsibility. It is like saying, “I’m sorry you took offence…” again, implying that the fault is not theirs, but yours… you took offence where none was intended.

Apologies must be freely offered, and not given begrudgingly. When politicians, or indeed anyone, apologises this way, we all question the sincerity of it.

Well, I’ve said I was sorry…

I have pointed out many ways not to apologise, and I hope it helps you give more honest and sincere apologies in future. My advice is simply to be open and admit when you’ve done wrong.

I want to close by reminding you that even when you do apologise sincerely, acceptance of that apology and forgiveness must never be demanded.

If someone does not respond positively to your sorrow, then please never say “Well, I’ve apologised, what more do you want?”

Forgiveness must never be demanded. When you offer your apologies, you must leave them with the other person and give them time to respond. It is not for you to remind them that they ought to forgive you, or that your apologies somehow heal hurts that were caused.

We all make mistakes, and as long as we live and interact with other people, there will be times when we need to say we are sorry for a wrong we have done. Let us apologise sincerely, without excuse or defence, and humbly say we are sorry when we need to.

I hope this has been helpful, and trust you won’t need to call upon it too often! Have a great day!

Confession Time

Reading another blog recently, I was struck by the openness and honesty of the author. They were describing their own struggles with sin over the past year, and I actually found it quite refreshing to hear. Not that sin should be celebrated you understand, but rather we all struggle and yet few of us talk about it.

We all want to put on our best face to other people, and so rarely share anything that might make us look bad. Social media can amplify this, giving us glimpses of only the best bits of life. It was once said that social media is life through a very fine filter.

As a result of this lack of openness, we sometimes find ourselves feeling like the only one in the world struggling with one issue or another. Or am I alone in that? I hope not!

The devil loves to make us think we are alone in our battles. If he can fool us into thinking no one else is facing such things, then he can trick us into thinking we are worse than everyone else around us.

If you are in any form of ministry, be it pastoring a church or writing a blog, this problem can be all the worse. Those in ministry should stretch for higher standards. I often wrestle with the following verses from James’ letter:

Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many things. Anyone who doesn’t stumble in word is a perfect person, able to bridle the whole body also.

James 3:1-2 (WEB)

Heavier judgement, as rendered in this translation, does not sound all that fun! Why make the test harder than it needs to be right? Why bother to teach at all?

For those called to do so, it is an occupational hazard! Once you have discovered your call, you can no more ignore it than you can stop your own heart beating.

Jeremiah said:

If I say, I will not make mention of him,

    or speak any more in his name,

then there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones.

    I am weary with holding it in.

    I can’t.

Jeremiah 20:9 (WEB)

Not to speak of the Lord was not an option for Jeremiah. For those called to share the Gospel, they cannot cease to proclaim the truth either.

So, teachers are teachers, and subject to “heavier judgement.” The issue is that this can lead to an almost false persona. We want the people we are teaching to think well of us. We incorrectly believe that if they really knew us, then they would cease to listen to what we have to say.

As a teacher, you need to be able to demonstrate some measure of success in your subject. I do not go around teaching the finer points of plumbing because I know not the difference between a U-bend and a stopcock! If I cannot demonstrate that I know the Bible and can put its teaching into practice, then my instruction will have little power behind it.

Does this mean we can never be open? No, of course not! No one is perfect, least of all me, and we cannot and should not expect perfection from our teachers. I actually think more highly of someone who is open about their struggles than those who claim to have none at all.

John says in his first letter:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9 (WEB)

We know that when confessing our sins to God, He will forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. It goes on to say that if we claim to be without sin, we are deceiving ourselves and making God out to be a liar.

So, do you need a time of confession? Not everyone should write a blog and tell the world of their shortcomings, but tell a trusted friend.

For me, I am constantly wrestling with pride. I confess to you, trusted reader, that I have myself on my mind far too often! When I get scared, it is because I am thinking of myself. When I get angry, it is because someone or something has interrupted my plan. When I get tired, I forget my priorities and end up living to please myself and not the Lord. All of these issues stem from pride. It is part of why I believe God is steering me towards studying the subjects of meekness and humility at the moment.

I am far from perfect, and make mistake after mistake at times. What I find really frustrating is the cycle of sin I find it hard to escape from. I fight against one temptation, beat it for a while, then slip back. Can you relate?

I could write a thousand more words about my faults, but not sure how interesting a read it would be! The point is, I confess to you that I live in the world, I have a flesh to grapple with, and there is a real-life enemy to contend with. It is the same for you.

Do you need to set aside some time for a “spiritual bath?” Need you sit down with Jesus and talk through some of your own struggles and sins? Is there a trusted person in your life you can speak to and confess your sins to?

I praise and thank God for the cleansing work of His Son! Jesus’ shed blood on the cross means that every sin is covered. As long as we live on this Earth, we will wrestle with sin. But we must keep fighting! Only when we give up and give in, are we truly defeated.

Let me finish by reminding you that you are not alone. No matter what sins you wrestle with, there is someone else going through the exact same thing. You are not alone! Only by each of us being honest about our failings can we reassure one another and offer each other support.

Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other. And let each of us rejoice in Christ’s finished work that we may go free! Praise His Holy Name!

No Stones Were Thrown

I was reading John 8 this morning, and in particular the account of the “Woman caught in adultery.” I take slight issue with that title, as no woman (or man for that matter) can be caught in “solo” adultery. As far as I am aware, it takes two to tango and so the guilty man in this case is a notable absence.

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.

John 8:3-6 (NIV)

Notice how the Pharisees had little regard for this woman’s dignity. They forced her to stand in the midst of this crowd, enhancing her humiliation. While adultery is no crime in our day and age (although still very much a sin), in those days it was plain criminal. A little humiliation was perhaps the least of her worries however.

The Pharisees think they have Jesus cornered. He has two apparent choices; 1) to condemn her and permit them to stone her to death, or 2) to let her go unpunished, and thus break the Mosaic Law. To choose option 1 would dent Jesus’ reputation before the crowds that followed Him, and option 2 gave the Teachers of the Law grounds against Him.

Jesus says not one word. Instead, He bends down and begins to write on the ground. It is infuriating to not know what was written. Why would the author include such a detail if he was not going to give us the full picture? That, in fact, gives the text some credibility. If this were fictional, you would simply not include such a loose end. The truth of this narrative shows an honest report of what happened, even with this glaring omission. The author most likely did not know what was written.

We can take a stab however, guessing that as the finger of God wrote on the stony ground, that it is connected to the Ten Commandments written in stone all those years ago.

Assuming this is correct, as the gathered crowd read each commandment in turn, they realise their own sinfulness. Jesus challenged only those without sin to throw the stone at her, and not one did. The oldest left first, perhaps more aware of their own failings than the youth, but in the end Jesus remained alone with the woman.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

John 8:9-11 (NIV)

No one in the crowd condemns the woman, as no one had the right to. The only One without sin, and the only One legitimately able to cast the stone at her chooses not to.

I am astonished at His words to her.

“Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more.”

Be aware of the order of this. Jesus releases her from condemnation first, then instructs her to leave her life of sin. Were it the other way around, she (and we) might believe that we might first cleanse ourselves of sin before we can go out without condemnation. But not so! He releases us first, and in response, we leave our sins behind.

In the same way, God led the people of Israel out of captivity in Egypt before giving them the Law. It was not the case at all that God demanded perfect performance from them before He would act. Instead, He rescues them and later deals with their obedience.

I imagine myself in this account, most often as the woman caught. You can swap out adultery for any number of sins here, and still the premise holds. I stand before the Lord, and He has every right to condemn me for my sin. My head is bowed, and I am ashamed. I wait for the stone to impact me, and the pain that would follow. Yet it never comes. I dare not look up and into those eyes.

There is still a big part of me that feels I must earn God’s favour. When I am conscious of my sin, I pull away from God, believing myself to be unworthy to enter His presence. I have it backwards. He has dealt with my sins (and yours) once and for all. We enter into His presence, not because we are good enough, but because of His shed blood on the cross.

As we accept and rejoice in that truth, it spurs us on to a life where we no longer tolerate sin. We will never achieve perfection on this Earth, but we strive against sin and its effects as an act of praise to our glorious and generous God.

Reflect on this truth from Romans:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

Romans 8:1 (NIV)

As you meditate on this, soak it up and marinate (for want of a better word) in the fact that you face no condemnation whatsoever, let that lead to a life without habitual sin.

You cannot earn God’s forgiveness, and have no need to. It has been bought and paid for. Enjoy that gift, and live holy to please your Lord.

Eternity in the Balance (Best of 2021)

andy-brown.org/2021/02/08/eternity-in-the-balance/

Over the next few days, I will be sharing some of the most read posts of this year.

This post, from way back in February, discuss is the idea of eternal punishment and how we can avoid it! I know that may not seem like the most uplifting of themes… But there is nothing more important!

What are your thoughts on this subject? Do leave me a comment or question.

Thanks for reading!

Might Not Sin (Re-post)

Do you want to sin against God? The obvious answer is no! No one who calls themselves a follower of Jesus Christ does. Yet, what steps do we take to …

Might Not Sin

The Room

I wish I could say I wrote this. Such a powerful, powerful story. This is from my Facebook memories from 9 years ago. But in a sense I did write this…

The Room

A Father’s Day Blessing

I literally could not say it any better than Bruce has in the below post. All fathers, give it a good read and do think about following Bruces blog

We fathers need a huge amount of grace. None of us are perfect, and off an hour mistakes outweigh the things we do right. praise God that our Father in heaven does not hold it against us. In fact, he gave his only son that every mistake we have ever made will be blotted out and forgotten.

My prayer is that we fathers learn to love is our heavenly father loves.

Bruce always ends his posts with the phrase worthy is the lamb! And I join him today. Worthy indeed is the Lamb of God!

A father is someone who is supposed to love you, protect you, provide for you and guide you and most importantly, be an example to their children, of…

A Father’s Day Blessing